If you’re planning to visit the Northwest, one thing you have to put on your itinerary is eating at the different food trucks in Portland, Oregon. There are hundreds to choose from, and in my opinion, they’re the best places to eat in the city.
The History of Food Trucks in Portland
In 1965, the first food cart opened in Portland, selling kosher hot dogs. Since then, thousands have come and gone. I don’t think there’s an official number as to how many are currently operating, but my guess is it’s close to 1,000. Some are on their own, while others are clustered in food courts.
When I visited Portland in 2015, I was in love with the Alder Street Food Cart Pod. I tried several different meals, including a gyro, a sushi dinner, and an amazing burger from The Brunch Box. The Alder Street Food Cart Pod closed in 2019 and the parking lot was demolished to make way for a forthcoming Ritz-Carlton. However, I was glad to see the Brunch Box was relocated to SE Morrison Street, although it’s no longer a food truck.
Cartopia and Hawthorne Asylum
Currently, there are two great food courts within a block of each other in the Buckman Neighborhood on the east side of the Willamette River – Cartopia and the Hawthorne Asylum. Cartopia has nearly a dozen trucks serving a variety of cuisines including Mexican, Thai and Mediterranean, as well as regular staples – pizza, burgers, chicken, and fries. The carts are arranged around a beautiful central dining area with a couple dozen tables, plants, and a tent roof for rainy days.
Hawthorne Asylum is by far the bigger of the two. There are at least two dozen trucks at this one, some of which serve some really unique options. There’s Burmese, Lebanese, sushi burritos, fish and chips, crepes, waffles (think sandwiches and salads), gyros and shawarma, Philly cheesesteaks, Mexican, Thai, and much more.
Perhaps the best thing about the food trucks, at least for a budget traveler or backpacker, is that they’re very reasonably priced. Sure, they’re not as cheap as they were back in 2015 when I visited, but they’re better than most of the other restaurants in town. And that’s surprising, considering how the food in many cases is better quality. My sister lived in Portland for many years, and she would always take clients out to the food trucks before a fancy restaurant.
Where to Find the Food Trucks
To be honest, it’s hard to miss them. With hundreds across the city, you’ll find them every few streets. Sometimes you just have to know what to search for on Google. “Food truck” only displays a few, and so does “street food.” My search for “food court” yielded better results, but you might have to ask a local around where you’re staying to find what the best food trucks in that area are. There are still quite a few in the city center, despite the new buildings going up as well as the homelessness explosion taking over the sidewalks.
I would definitely say the best trucks are in SE Portland. I’d highly recommend a trip to Hawthorne Asylum. Go for the food, stay for the awesome ambiance.